UPDATE: AdAge tells us that sweeping changes are being made to the site to try and reverse a downward spiral in traffic. It looks like the unique registration challenge A-B faces will be the site's demise.
Anheuser-Busch is helping prove that content, all by itself, may not be the king of online.
A-B is pumping $30 million into Bud.TV, its branded digital entertainment network. Despite original programming from Kevin Spacey and Vince Vaughn, as well as a mix of comedy, reality TV and sports, Bud.TV is falling short of its goal of 2-to-3 million monthly visits. The media are quick to point out why Bud.TV is going flat.
Registration is the site’s Achilles heel. It’s required by law, but is a pain and it walls off the site. This could get worse before it gets better as several states have petitioned A-B to make registration even tougher.
But before we put Bud.TV on, er, ice, let’s consider some ways they can still get their drink on.
Content: A-B decided not to play with the YouTube’s of the world. So you won’t find their content on other sites. OK, separation anxiety...we get that a lot in corporate America when it comes to ceding control of the message. create shorter spots to promote Bud.TV on these sites. You can’t deny their ability to quickly match good content with a broad audience.
Extensions: Bud needs to pour out pint-sized versions of Bud.TV to reach its audience online. They should create a Bud.TV widget I can add to my site highlighting the latest programs and telling visitors the shows are always on at Bud.TV (play off the concept of Happy Hours instead of Prime Time).
The site notes it’s developing a “Desktop Bud.TV.” What’s it modeled after, Pointcast? It might as well be as they’re creating a proprietary video player you can download to play Bud.TV spots on your computer. Why not give visitors the ability to send content to a standard media player as well as mobile phones and iPods? Requiring software to watch the content gives viewers one more reason not to watch it at all.
Promotion: A-B launched Bud.TV during the Super Bowl to get awareness, but shied away from online promotion. So they want awareness, but not registered viewers? You cannot expect You-Tube sized growth from a Super Bowl commercial. Little online promotion takes place. Paid search is not even under consideration at this time according to MediaPost. Wtf?! If that’s not wrong, it’s arrogant. Bud.TV needs to get the word out at other sites catering to their younger, male demographic.
Get a (Blue’s) Clue about Interface Design: I’m not a designer, I’m a user. But I think you’ll agree the Bud.TV interface could be better. It might be visually pleasing, but it's too spread out with a viewing screen that's too small, even when you zoom.
My kids love watching video online at Nick Jr’s web site. Not only does it do a better job of serving up content, you can increase screen size and go back and forth between the two quickly and easily. Yes, it’s ironic that a kid’s site is a good model for BudTV. But younger audiences are used to smaller screens and have more opportunities to tune in to online content.
Bud.TV’s interface should be a non-issue and its content should be easier to share so it can help spread the word to other viewers. The content may be funny and cool, but without connectivity, it doesn’t matter.
MediaPost also notes “Anheuser-Busch is in the process of bolstering Bud.TV with new features and a more aggressive marketing campaign.” They already let you send a link from a video to a friend. Well, it’s a start.
What are the Odds?
$30 million is a lot of beer money no matter who’s throwing the party—about 1,875,000 cases or >burp< 45 million cans. Bud.TV is taking a risk. But we all recommend taking risks to do meaningful, successful marketing. Hopefully A-B changes the site in time to make Bud.TV a success.